Chicago public schools re-open, face first test of safe passage routes

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NBC Chicago – More than 400,000 Chicago Public Schools students return to class Monday, the first time the district has employed so-called “Safe Passage” routes to help children safely travel to and from school.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to be out early to oversee the first day of his overhauled school system, which saw 50 schools close at the end of the last year, and CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett greeted students at Fisk Elementary.

Emanuel’s office said the mayor will visit classrooms and walk with students along Safe Passage routes before and after school.

There already have been a number of shootings along Safe Passage routes over the summer, the most violent seen in Uptown where five people were shot just outside a church last week.

Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett clarified the “Safe Passage” program is only “during the time the children come to school and leave school,” but some are still concerned.

A 28-year-old man was shot in the neck just after 11:30 p.m. Sunday across from Charles Evans Hughes Elementary School and on a designated Safe Passage route. Police said the man has gang affiliations.

About 600 people will spread out over 50 new routes to escort children to and from school and help kids and their parents feel a bit more at ease. More than 100 of Chicago’s newest police officers also will patrol streets along Safe Passage routes.

Worker David Starks said Sunday he will be stationed along the routes for six hours each day, monitoring students with his “eyes open for any suspicious activities harmful to youth.”

“We are given a phone and we are able to make calls, contact the Chicago Police office and our supervisors,” Starks said.

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